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Spanish motorcycle legend Angel Nieto dies aged 70

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Thirteen-time motorcycle world champion Angel Nieto has died at the age of 70 from injuries sustained in a road accident earlier this week.

Nieto was struck by a car after falling off his quad bike, suffering severe head injuries that led to him being placed in a medically-induced coma.

Nieto’s condition worsened earlier this week, with his passing being announced in a statement from MotoGP released on Thursday evening.

“Spanish motorcycling legend Angel Nieto sadly passed away on August 3rd, succumbing to injuries sustained in a quad bike accident in Ibiza some days before,” the statement reads.

“A true giant of the sport in Spain and on the world stage, the Champion from Zamora will be deeply missed.

“Nieto was a 13-time World Champion, but due to superstition would always refer to the number as 12 + 1. Born in Castile and Leon in 1947, the Spaniard would emerge as the leading force in establishing his nation as a motorcycling world power, winning an incredible 90 Grands Prix and taking 139 podiums on his way to his 12 + 1 world titles.

“Over almost two decades, Nieto set his name in stone as a true great, competing in and often dominating the 50cc, 80cc and 125cc events and Championships he entered.

“This dominance and brilliance over 19 years at the top established him as one of the all-time elite – alongside the likes of Giacomo Agostini, Valentino Rossi, Mike Hailwood and Phil Read in the annals of two-wheeled history.

“Six 50cc World Championships and seven on 125cc machinery also make Nieto the rider to have won the most titles with different manufacturers, as the Spaniard rode for and won on Derbi, Bultaco, Garelli, Minarelli and Kreidler machinery.

“He also took domestic titles in every conceivable class from 50cc up to 750cc in his native Spain, setting his legend in stone at home as well as on the world stage.

“His cavalier charisma and character were a great reflection of the late 1960s and ‘70s, with his personality more than matching his achievements on-track.

“Later Nieto was also a team manager, at the helm when Emilio Alzamora won the 125 World Championship in 1999, and became the head of a motorcycling dynasty as family members followed his path into the world of two wheels.

“The Nieto name remains synonymous with Spanish motorcycling and the 12 + 1 World Champion will be deeply missed; forever remaining an inspiration to his nation and to the entire MotoGP paddock.”

Oliver Askew: ‘I was starting to lose confidence’ after ‘hardest hit I’ve had’

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Oliver Askew knew something was medically wrong in the days after concussion-like symptoms began from “the hardest hit I’ve ever had” in the Indianapolis 500. He’d been evaluated and cleared to race after the Aug. 23 crash, but he just didn’t feel right.

The IndyCar rookie told The Associated Press on Thursday he has been experiencing dizziness, sleeping difficulties, irritability, headaches and confusion since he crashed in the Aug. 23 race. He continued to race in four more events as he tried to “play through it” until friends and family encouraged him to seek medical treatment.

He since has been diagnosed with a concussion and is working on a recovery plan with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s sports medicine concussion program, the same place NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. received care after concussions in 2012 and ’16. Askew will not compete in next weekend’s doubleheader on the road course at Indianapolis, and Arrow McLaren SP will put three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves in the No. 7 Chevrolet.

“This is all I’ve worked for,” the 23-year-old told AP. “I don’t come from money, and I’ve worked my way up and have finally gotten my shot in a good car. And then all of a sudden, the results just weren’t there in a car I knew should be performing. And I just didn’t feel like myself, you know?

“So initially I felt like I needed to stay in the car and continue to improve. And then I didn’t feel like I could do that with my condition and what was going on. I was starting to lose confidence in myself.”

Earnhardt praised Askew for going to Pittsburgh to see Dr. Micky Collins.

“Oliver is in the best hands when it comes to taking care of this problem and getting back on the racetrack. It was very smart of him to get in front of Micky so that he could understand the seriousness of the situation and begin the process of getting well,” Earnhardt said. “You can absolutely heal from this but not without taking the step of getting help. Often that’s the most difficult step.”

Athletes often hide injuries to continue competing, and even Earnhardt admittedly masked concussions during his driving career. Askew didn’t know what was wrong with him but was frightened to get out of the car.

He is a paid driver who brings no sponsorship money to the team (but did bring a $1 million scholarship for winning last year’s Indy Lights championship), and owner Sam Schmidt holds the option on his contract.

As he tried to race on, his performance suffered. Askew had finished third and sixth at Iowa — the previous two races before Indianapolis. After the crash, he was part of a multicar accident the next week at Gateway and has not finished higher than 14th in the four races since Indy.

A year after winning seven Indy Lights races, Askew has fallen from 12th to 18th in the standings and slipped considerably off the pace. He said he struggled in team debriefs, had difficulty giving feedback and has gone through a personality change that was noticeable to those close to Askew.

Spire Sports + Entertainment, which represents Askew and was among those who pushed the driver to see a doctor, noted Arrow McLaren SP did not reveal that Askew was suffering from a concussion in its Thursday announcement he would miss next week’s race.

“Oliver clearly demonstrated his talent until Lap 91 of the Indianapolis 500, and I hope this does not become another case study of why athletes do not tell their teams they are injured,” said agent Jeff Dickerson. “The reason they do that is because more often times than not they are replaced. In motorsports, there is always somebody to replace you, and whether it was Dale Jr. or Oliver Askew, there is always another driver available.

“I hope this is not a barrier to progress for other drivers — especially young drivers afraid of losing their job — to notify their teams they are hurt. I hope the team proves me wrong because the good news is, the kid has had a head injury for the past month and has still run 14th in IndyCar.”

After finally seeking medical treatment, Askew said he was relieved to learn there was something wrong. He said doctors told him the injury has a “100% recovery rate” and he believes he will be able to race in the IndyCar season finale next month at St. Petersburg. He’s been rehabilitating with exercises and tasks that strain the brain such as deliberately going to grocery stores and the airport.

“Honestly, you know, if I had not gone to see medical professionals I would probably stay in the car,” Askew said. “But now after hearing what’s wrong and that it could get worse, God forbid I have another hit, I know I did the right thing. I think I can be an example for young drivers now in stepping up and saying something is wrong, I need to have this checked out.”